After we used the first day in Istanbul to get an overview of the city centre, we now wanted to visit its most prominent sight: the mighty Hagia Sophia. Construction of this architectural masterpiece was finished in 537 under Emperor Justinian and since then it was the largest of all Christian churches for many centuries. In 1453, Istanbul was captured by Mehmet the Conqueror and the Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque. This change also incorporated drastic modifications to the interior with the large medallions inscribed with Arabic letters being only the most obvious. In 1934, the Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum and some of the original Christian frescoes and mosaics were restored. This magnificent building is definitely a must-see for every traveller coming to Istanbul!!
After we spent the morning marvelling at the beauty of this ancient monument, we walked only a few metres further to visit another gem of Istanbul: the Blue Mosque. The construction of this elegant building was completed in 1616 and rivals the beauty of the more than 1000 years older Hagia Sophia. It is still used as an active place of worship, but you can visit it in-between prayer times. After a short tea break at the near-by Hippodrome, we walked towards the Golden Horn and across the Galata Bridge to Beyoglu (see post 1 for an overview map). This rather modern district is known for its chic shopping streets, but also includes the lively Karaköy Fish Market and the Galata Tower dominating the skyline at the Golden Horn. Furthermore, it gives you the opportunity to use the Tünel, a short underground railway line inaugurated in 1875 and connecting the harbour with the district’s centre. This is the oldest subterranean urban rail line in continental Europe!
Night fell during our excursion to Beyoglu and we returned home late to plan our activities for the following day. But you have to check out the next post to read what we experienced then! 🙂